How to Do Single Leg Circles in Pilates

Single Leg Circles is a Pilates move that reinforces the basic principles of core strength. You must be able to focus and breathe smoothly as your abdominal muscles work to keep your pelvis and shoulders stable. This move stretches and strengthens your hip flexors and thigh muscles, particularly the iliotibial (IT) band. With a strong powerhouse and steady movement, you will build control and precision throughout the move.


  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended. Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing down. Pull in your abdominal muscles, anchoring your pelvis and shoulders. Relax your shoulders. Balance your weight evenly across your shoulders and hips.
    • Beginners can bend both knees and keep the feet flat on the floor. The non-moving leg will be kept bent throughout the move.
  2. Draw your right leg in toward your chest, and then extend it up toward the ceiling. Bring your right thigh as perpendicular to the floor as you can. Point your toes and turn your leg slightly outward from the hip. Do not let your right hip lift off the mat. It’s okay if your right knee stays slightly bent to keep your hip on the mat.
  3. Engage both inner thighs as you sweep your right leg across your body toward the left, aiming your leg toward your left shoulder.
  4. Circle your leg down toward the mat, then out to the right, and finally back to center. Inhale for the first half of the leg circle and exhale for the second half.
  5. Repeat 5-8 times, and then reverse directions for another 5-8 times. Repeat with the opposite leg. End in the same position in which you started, then roll up to a sitting position.

Hot Tip: Stabilize Your Abs

Keep your abdominal muscles anchored throughout the move! Do not let your body twist or turn, or roll from one side to the other. Instead, hold your powerhouse in place to stabilize your pelvis and shoulders.

Modifications & Tips

Single Leg Circles will tone your legs and hips, and strengthen your powerhouse. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • Keep your movements controlled and precise.
  • Lead the circle with the inside of your knee.
  • Keep your shoulders and pelvis level and anchored throughout the pose. Doing so is more important than making big circles or fully extending your leg.
  • The main work in this move is done on the upswing. Work to hold your leg steady on the upward swing of each circle, and let your abs do the work.
  • If you are bending your knees, keep your non-moving leg’s foot flat on the floor to help stabilize your body.
  • Do not let your extended leg swing too far to the outside.
  • Imagine that you are drawing circles on the ceiling with your toes. As you gain strength, you will be able to make your circles bigger.
  • Do not tilt your head back or arch your back.

Circle for Strength

Practicing Single Leg Circles will challenge your coordination and control. Make sure your leg moves independently; it should not cause your pelvis or spine to roll to the sides. Regularly practicing this move will help you build long and lean leg muscles while powering up your abdominals!

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